By David Eastman
The year is 165 BCE...
The Maccabean revolt has successfully overthrown the Greek oppressors, and the Jews have recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple. They are deeply pained by the profanity the Greeks have brought into they're holiest sanctuary.
They are tired from the long war, and yet they seek to make a symbol of their freedom by lighting the Menorah, as was the regular service in the Holy Temple before they lost control.
Their hopes are soon dimmed as they see that all the oil seals have been broken, making them unfit for use in the Holy Temple. Still they search on. It seems that there is no hope. Suddenly, amidst the gloomy atmosphere, a Jew begins to shout cheers of joy and praise to Hashem.
Deep under the ruins of the Greek impurity, tucked into a small crevice is one vial of oil with its seal unbroken. The amount of oil is only enough for one day - but miraculously, it remains lit for a whole eight days.
Thousands of years later...
The sky is black. The stars are scattered among the drifting rain clouds. Three hundred and twenty soldiers stand around a wooden table. Their faces are painted. Their boots are heavy from the thick dried mud. They are tired. Their feet are sore, their backs ache. They are dressed in full battle gear.
A cold winter wind tears through their light winter gear. The battalion commander, who is not religious, stands with a burning candle in his hand. He raises his eyes to look at his men. They have been through almost a week and a half of intense war training. His eyes are filled with pride.
"Men of the 890th Airborne Battalion," he says in his raspy voice, "today WE are the Maccabees. We must be strong and fight against our enemies. No one else will do it for us."
With that he lowers his eyes to the small golden chanukiah resting on the wooden table. At his signal the whole group of soldiers begins to chant the blessings before the lighting. As they finish he lights the chanukiah and the soldiers begin to sing "Hanerot HaLalu".
Our Temple has been destroyed and burned.
They have sacked our most religious of sites.
There are Jews scattered throughout the world, many without even a clue as to what it means to be a Jew. Darkness seems to outweigh light. Our souls have been attacked by the lusts and cravings of the surrounding nations.
But deep under the ruins, under the dust and ashes, if one really seeks it out, you could find the small untainted vial of oil.
Copyright © Ilya Faverman
What is oil?
Oil is the potential for flame. It lays dormant until ignited. It is nothing and yet everything.
Every Jew has an untainted vial of oil deep inside his precious soul. A spiritual potential untouched by the impurities of the world. The oil may seem only to be enough "for one day," but the flame it brings forth can never be extinguished.
This is the miracle of Chanukah. This is what so attracts the Jewish soul. It is the holiday celebrating the eternal potential that lies within each one of us in the Nation of Israel.
This is the miracle the Maccabees experienced then, and this is the miracle I witnessed only a few nights ago with 319 other soldiers.
May we all be given the strength to search hard enough to discover the untainted oil within our fellow Jews, and most of all within ourselves.
May we have the courage to ignite it.